A Celebration of Being Alive!

October 29, 2013 by  
Filed under current, Guest Space, Wisdom Space

sing2beatbreastcancerchoirFive and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With one word, my whole life changed. Every day, month and year since then has been a celebration of being alive – of being given a second chance.

Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I wake up in the morning feeling fearful, when I’m not earning enough money to pay the bills regularly.

Sometimes I get annoyed with people – or with myself. But mostly, I’m grateful.

I’ve also experienced feelings of guilt about still being here, when others have departed – and feelings of shame for not giving back to the community that ensured I stayed alive.

I’ve considered various fundraising activities over the years – but I’m not a great fan of running, cycling or climbing mountains. And then something amazing happened…

In the summer, a friend who has also had breast cancer told me that her daughter was recording a charity single. My friend’s daughter is Camilla Kerslake, a classical singer who put her fledgling career on hold to care for her mother when she was taken ill. Since then, Camilla has been involved in raising funds for several breast cancer charities.

She was recording the song “You Raise Me Up” with the classical trio Blake and, to make it really special, she wanted to have a choir made up of women who had been directly affected by breast cancer.

When my friend invited me to be in the choir, I jumped at the chance to help out. I love singing and have sung backing vocals in pub bands over the years. Being in a band – with my partner, Paul – helped me through the early days of breast cancer, by giving me something positive to focus on.

With the help of another friend, we managed to round up a total of twenty women, of all ages and stages of cancer – including a couple of young carers – and spent two days auditioning, rehearsing and recording the single. As we went our separate ways at the end of day two, I thought that was that. But I was wrong!

During October – Breast Cancer Awareness month – we have performed the song live at a number of prestigious events, including the opening concert of Blake’s UK tour, the Inspiration Awards for Women, and the Pink Ribbon Ball – Breast Cancer Campaign’s flagship fundraising event. We even sang live on daytime television!

Our final scheduled performance is on 27th October at St James’ Theatre in London.

The single was released on 13th October, together with with a video which everyone describes as “uplifting”. All profits from the sale of the single go to the Breast Cancer Campaign, which funds research in the UK and Ireland.

Even now, I have to pinch myself to convince myself this is really happening. The whole experience has been like a magic pink carpet ride!

Being in the choir has been incredibly life-affirming, and meeting the other women has been wonderful – they are filled with such good humour and compassion.

When we’re together, we forget about the sort of petty squabbles that happen in “real” life – even when we’re sitting around for hours, waiting to go on stage. We realise that it’s a waste of precious time, to get bogged down in things that don’t really matter.

We’ve been through something worse than most people will ever experience – and we’ve also been through something more magical than most people could ever dream of.

And although we’re doing it for ourselves – because we’re enjoying ourselves, and because it’s healing – we’re also doing it to show solidarity with everyone who has ever had breast cancer.

We’re also doing it in the hope that nobody has to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. We’re praying that isn’t too much to ask.

About Our Guest Contributor

Julia BarnickleJulia is a multiple specialist, a Quiet Entrepreneur, and a proponent of Taking Life As It Comes. She helps Introverts, Scanners and recovering creatives to connect with their creative passion, get clarity about their values and find flow. She also promotes Introvert-friendly ways to build an on-line Lifestyle business.

To read more of Julia’s work, visit juliabarnickle.com

Facebook: juliabarnickle

Twitter: juliabarnickle

She is also a founder member of the Sing To Beat Breast Cancer choir. To find out more about the choir, watch videos of live performances and download the single in aid of breast cancer research, visit the choir website: sing2beatbreastcancer.com


2 Responses to “A Celebration of Being Alive!”
  1. Julia, I cannot watch the video of this magnificent collaboration without tears. They are tears for the strength, the resilience, the angelic voices, and most of all, for the love I see there in every smile, every heart. This is truly a most magnificent undertaking, and I applaud you for sharing it with us.

    Thank you xx

    • Thank you Káren. I suppose, when you’re in the thick of things, you don’t think about being strong or resilient – you just get on with it. They really are a lovely bunch of women, most of whom had never sung in public before. The whole experience has been very healing. xx